PR Web Takes The ‘Social’ Out Of Social Media

In the lead-up to PodCamp Toronto 2008, we’re issuing a news release with details of the event. Given that it’s a social media event, we decided to issue a social media news release.For those of you who may not be familiar with the basics of social media releases, we intended our release would differ from a traditional release in several ways:

  • Bullet point-style news that cut to the point rather than wordy, spin-filled paragraphs
  • Content divided into distinct sections: news, quotes, quick facts, learn more
  • Multiple links to useful information like the location, registration form, speakers, etc
  • Embedded social media tools – tagging, links
  • Limited embedded multimedia content – graphics and audio
  • Ability to share the release through social media tools like Digg, StumbleUpon or similar

(This is a gross over-simplification of the format, but for the purpose of this post it suffices)

With these requirements, PR Web was a logical choice. The company’s services seemed to match our needs perfectly:

PR Web Service Options

PR Web LogoWe plumped for the third option, “SEO Visibility” – the level above “Social Media Visibility.”

Registration for the site was quick, easy and painless. The problems began when I uploaded our release.

Within an hour, I received an email from PR Web, conversationally titled “Editorial Hold Advisory from PRWeb – Please Do Not Respond to this E-Mail”:

Our editors have determined that a few changes need to be made to your press release in order to effectively distribute it on PRWeb. Your press release has been placed on editorial hold status in order to allow you the opportunity to make the required reviews and edits to your press release.

Please review the following editorial explanation describing why your press release was put on editorial hold:

  • PRWeb no longer distributes news releases with an excessive amount of links. Please limit your link count to 1 per 100 words. This policy is in place to protect the value of the links that you include in your release and the value of links within the PRWeb network.

The reviewing editor has also made these additional comments:

  • Your release also lacks an introductory paragraph in the body text that clearly outlines your news. Please insert one. Thanks!

Yes, you read it right:

  • Our “social media news release” had too many links
  • We had to drop the to-the-point, bullet-focused approach and lead with a regular paragraph.

Not very encouraging. Too many links? I have more links in my email signature. PR Web clearly doesn’t understand the concept of the social media news release.

PodCamp Toronto 2008 is only two weeks away so time is tight. We’re debating what to do at the moment. I’ve already contacted the company. What do you think? Should we:

  1. Re-structure the release into a traditional format?
  2. Negotiate with PR Web?
  3. Ask for a refund and use another company?

Let me know what you think.

Update (Feb 7): Jiyan Wei, Online Product Manager for PR Web, contacted me this morning to discuss this situation.

Firstly, thanks to Jiyan for getting involved, both via the comments here and with me directly.

Jiyan explained PR Web’s rationale for the links rule – while Google loves links, Google News apparently doesn’t. If a news release has too many links in it, Google News may decide it’s spam. He also informed me they’re willing to be flexible on it with our release, and that they’re considering whether to make the ‘rule’ more of a ‘guideline’ for users in the future.

Their second original request, about an introductory paragraph, also relates to Google News. As I understand it, the service won’t pick up releases that don’t fit their idea of what a news release should be. Bullet points don’t fit that idea.

All in all, a productive discussion.

In the meantime, several other newswire services contacted me. I’m very impressed that they’re paying attention – thanks to them, too.

Update (Feb 8): We released our release on PRWeb this morning – we went with a more traditional format in the end.

In an interesting twist, CNW stepped up to the plate and offered to let us try their service. Our SMNR-style release is now live on their site.

This was a fascinating experience. It’s great to know that the news wire services are listening. PRWeb handled the issue very well – they joined the conversation early, listened to my concerns and were flexible. Marketwire, webitpr and CNW all noticed and contacted me too. Unfortunately, we couldn’t take advantage of all their offers without spamming media outlets with multiple copies of the same release.

This is a great example of why companies should get involved in conversations like these. I think it worked out well for everyone.

Dave Fleet
Managing Director and Head of Global Digital Crisis at Edelman. Husband and dad of two. Cycling nut; bookworm; videogamer; Britnadian. Opinions are mine, not my employer's.